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The Divine Comedy

Dante Divine Comedy

Around the World
half along our life’s path. Lost in a dark wood. Unable to find the right way…

Paradiso

Dear Beatrice…

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CANTO I

“Holy Grail!” British scientists have announced that after analysing thousands of breast tissue samples in hopes of pinpointing a genetic cause of breast cancer they have uncovered the precise trigger of the disease. They have been able to group the tumours into ten different categories based on the genetic changes that account for the majority of breast cancers. Cancer Research UK’s chief executive Dr Harpal Kumar said: “This will change the way we look at breast cancer and will have a tremendous impact on the way we think about diagnosing and treating women with it.” The study published in the journal Nature, analysed 2.000 tumour samples taken from women diagnosed with breast cancer between five and ten years ago. Professor Carlos Caldas, of Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute, which conducted the study, said: “This research won’t affect women diagnosed with breast cancer today. But patients in the future will receive treatment targeted to their tumour’s genetic fingerprint.” [/three_column]

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CANTO II

ARGENTINA. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the Argentinian president said that she seized a 51% controlling stake of energy company YPF – controlled by Spain’s Repsol – in Argentina because it was failing to produce enough oil to meet the country’s energy requirements. Repsol in turn will demand compensation based on a minimum evaluation of $18 billion. The move follows a giant discovery by YPF last year that could potentially generate up to 1 billion barrels of oil a year and marks an escalation of Argentina’s campaign to secure greater control of oil in the region. Not sure how much foreign investment would be done in Argentina after this but it’s good that somebody has the guts to go against the flow of the supremacy of the oil companies in favour of their own country. That’s the way it’s used to be: you invest in a country, you take the risk. It’s seems to be a forgotten practice by the multinationals…[/three_column]

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CANTO III

UNITED KINGDOM. Created in laboratories, XNA (xeno-nucleic acid) is a real genetic material that could eventually lead to synthesising artificial life in the laboratory. Phillip Holliger, of Molecular Biology of the UK Medical Research Council, Cambridge, together with other colleagues in Europe and the United States, has succeeded in producing a new genetic material, which has been dubbed XNA, in which the deoxyribose and ribose (the “d” and “r” of DNA and RNA) form other molecules. Potential applications are many, ranging from medicine to biotechnology. The development also has potential to increase our understanding of the mechanisms by which life first formed, billions of years ago. While the potential is inherent in the new technology, we are still far from the synthesis of new life. Not only do we not yet have artificial life from XNA, but also the material created in Cambridge now has proven its properties only outside of a biological system consisting of all cells and their control mechanisms. Nobody can yet say whether it will work equally well inserted into the DNA of any organism, much less of a mammal. Even more distant is the possibility that new forms of life will be derived from XNAs. Science fiction approaches, but is not yet reality. We may not have yet reached the point of being able to create artificial life, but we’ve taken a big step in that direction.

O Beatrice let’s hope they hurry up. Can you believe it? Will we be able to create an artificial human being, full of wisdom and free of corruption and evil? Yes, it might be a bit artificial, come to think of it…

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Purgatorio

Virgil what can be said of …

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CANTO I

The Marie Antoinettes of Italian political parties that keep denying the Italian people their civil rights (they still cannot choose who to vote for in parliament), but keep for themselves all the privileges, hiding behind the supposed need for constitutional reforms to change this status quo. Italians are utterly disgusted by them. That’s why the level of trust in political parties is as low as 2 %, according to a recent survey.

“There is no alternative to the political party movement,” said the Italian president of the republic, branding the free movement to change Italian politics (chaired by former stand-up comedian Beppe Grillo) as something close to anarchy. The same tune came from the leaders of the major political parties. In the meantime a woman senator, former president of Milan county said, in a live TV debate in front of an audience of workers,: “Raise your hand anybody who has ever been on a holiday on a yacht?” The audience was astounded and silent. If this is the sense of reality that politicians have, it’s no wonder their approval ratings are at their lowest ebb. A stand-up comedian is just what Italy needs, to end the farce that has been going on for too long . . . curtain down, please![/three_column]

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CANTO II

ISRAEL. Chief of Staff Major General Benny Gants said that he does not believe Iran will develop a nuclear weapon. The head of Israel’s military said Iran leadership was composed of rational people. Teheran, he added, has not made the final decision to build a nuclear bomb. His views contradict those of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said in the same week that Teheran continues to enrich uranium – a key step toward developing the bomb. Who knows? Maybe the general is right. The record shows the politicians have been wrong before. Remember the reports of weapons of mass destruction in neighbouring Iraq and the consequences of that? Let’s hope the Americans have learned something from it – if nothing more than to be more cautions. Hey, Obama, got it?[/three_column]

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CANTO III

The group Fiat-Chrysler has posted a profit of €379 millions in the first quarter of 2012, thanks to strong Chrysler sales in the USA. A Fiat 500 might be the cool car that Jennifer Lopez is driving as she sings “Dance for Your Papi.” “I think it’s the best way to make him proud,” sings the self proclaimed Jenny from the Block. But I wonder what your Papi will think if he knows that his car is the most vandalised car in Britain. Data shows that the Fiat 500 has a 3.62% chance of being deliberately damaged, with the BMWz4 and Peugeot 207 coming in second and third respectively. Porsche was the most targeted brand overall according to a survey made by insurer swiftcover.com . Could that be because of the arrogant attitude of its CEO Mr Marchionne? Or is it just a product placement that has failed to reach the expected sales figure in the USA? “I don’t think we have a car problem; people love the car,” Fiat chief marketing officer Oliver Francois told Advertising Age. “I think we have an awareness problem.” Yes! The one where, “you are not the one for me,” as it says at the end of another song, sung by KT Tunstall, that Fiat used for an advert on Italian TV years ago. In fact, Fiat itself posted a loss of € 273 million. C’mon man! “Move your body, move your body, dance for your Papi…”[/three_column_last]


Inferno

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CANTO I

In Britain 6% of those earning more than £10 million year pay less than 10% tax on their income to the Treasury. More than a quarter of them pay less than 40%, the rate that kicks in for people earning only £34,000 a year. Just one in five of the 10,000 people that earn more than £1 million a year pay 40% in taxes. The 200 super-rich who rake in £10 million plus a year are the worst offenders for dodging tax. Treasury secretary George Osborne capped tax relief on charity donations at £50,000 a year after finding that some millionaires were using it to reduce their tax bills. Charities, philanthropists and MPs lined up to criticise the move, warning it would decrease the amount of money given to good causes. Yes, sure, let’s leave it to the rich to decide when and where they should pay taxes. After all they are in a league of their own, right? The poor are simply too many and too costly to deal with. That’s why they should look after themselves. It seems to be the current trend, as if these soigne people have learnt nothing from history.
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CANTO II

HSBC, Britain’s most profitable bank, after posting a £13.8 billion profit and giving its boss, Stuart Gulliver, an almost £8 million bonus, has announced 2,000 job cuts in the UK as part of a brutal cost-cutting drive. Unite spokesman David Flemming said the bank staff deserve better than this awful treatment from HSBC or any other employer. How can this bank consider staff cuts when it was the workforce that delivered its profits in the first place? The hypocrisy of Mr. Gulliver goes further as he aims to shed 30,000 jobs worldwide by 2013 in order to save £2.4 billion a year. Last year HSBC cut 7000 jobs outside the UK leaving it with 288.000 employees. It is also sacking hundreds of branch investment advisers in response to a ban on commissions designed to prevent future misselling scandals. Back in December 2011, HSBC was fined £10.5 million, or $16.5 million, as they sold inappropriate financial products to elderly customers. They were sold to individuals who were entering or were already in nursing homes. The customers, whose average age was 83, relied on these investments to pay for their retirement, according to the Financial Services Authority. “The advice and sales were unsuitable because in a number of cases the individual’s life expectancy was below the recommended five-year investment period,” the FSA statement reported. Barclays was fined £7.7 million in January over similar issues related to suitability. HSBC agreed to pay an additional £29.3 million in compensation to the affected clients. It got a 30 % discount on the fine, the Financial Services Authority said “because the bank had agreed to a settlement.” In February 2012, HSBC admitted for the first time that it may face criminal charges that could see it hit with “significant” penalties stemming from a US investigation into alleged money laundering.

One would think that with a record like that, Gulliver should have started his travelling a long time ago instead of being stuck in Lilliput?
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CANTO III

CANADA. Party drugs make teenagers depressed, according to a study carried out at the University of Montreal. Dr Jean-Sebastien Fallu, an associate professor at the school of educational psychology there, said their study’s results provided the first compelling evidence of a link between speed and ecstasy consumption and the onset of depression. The young users of these party drugs were found to be up to 70% more likely to exhibit depressive symptoms than those who used neither. Researchers surveyed 3,880 teenagers between the ages 15 and 16, from deprived areas of Quebec, over the course of five years.

But what are the real causes behind seeking alternative forms of escapism? Broken families, lack of education and job opportunities,unrealistic expectations, and fake role models – these are all the uncertainties that teenagers around the world are facing these days. Let’s find a pill that can help . . . the pharmaceutical companies! That’s the easiest solution to the problem. Looking at the cause of it? Bah! That’s the old way of thinking, just so passé monsieur.

To what other terraces of doom and pain, dear Virgil, will you accompany me… next time…

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